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And What a Crawl It Was!

The JP crawl this afternoon commenced at noon - and didn't end til 5! Whew!

There were 12 of us and lots of goodies - we sliced everything up - even the 3 or 4 inch round pupusa - and chowed down mightily. (Pictures to come!)

Beginning at Jackson Square, we ate our way down Centre street. We began at the new Tropical Cafe (someone else will provide the details), a friendly Dominican place, with our only real sitdown and a platter of samples and soup. The Cafe also offers a variety of meats - including oxtails and rabbit, cooked in a homey, simple manner, as well as fish and other seafood - all served cafeteria style, so you can check it out visually before ordering.

Then we met the delightful Madrego - David will give the details, had a sweet snack at Estella's, and then on to Tacos El Charro. I was surprised - as I thought it had been sold, but the owner told us they decided in the end to stay. We had (help me, chowers!) tacos el pastor - pork marinated (?) in pineapple, very flavorful, a tostada (?) with ceviche (fish "cooked" in lime juice) - really yummy - and another taco-y pork with peppers - All delish. Meanwhile, the intrepid Limster and Lydia went across the street to Alex's Chimis, and brought back a "pork sandwich" - a nice crusty baguette with shredded pork, some mayo, tomato stuff - Again, very tasty! Oh, and a good flan...

On to the Pupusa spot - Pupusa Guanaca? On the corner - We knew it would take a bit of time as they cook to order - the pupusa again was interesting and appealing (I'm running out of adjectives - soory I'm not better at deconstructing the ingredients of all these great mouthfuls), with a nice shredded spicy slaw. We also got a Salvadoran taco - quite different from Mexican but it went by too fast for me to give a good description. We also asked for three horchatas and got three tostadas (!) - crackely (in a good way!) fried small tortillas with a nice bean spread. So then we went back and got our horchatas - with cinnamon. Certainly refreshing - it's a milky, sweet, cold drink. For some of us, it really hit the spot, and others reminisced about "horchatas they have known"...

So do you think we were done? Nope - While some of us waited for the pupusas, others scouted out the Miami Restaurant across the way, and brought back a Cubano (a pressed sandwich with ham, pork, and cheese) , a pork tamale, and pork "en hojas" (in leaves.) Maybe because we waited to eat all of this until after we had our pupusa and horchata, it wasn't the shining point of the day. Some of liked the Cubano...

So, after a few goodbyes, we decided to get ourselves moving - and on to the sweets that beckoned! We hoofed it over to Cafe Ula - in the Brewery buildings on Amory St, just past Stonybrook and a bit towards Green - for some pizelli - a flat, sweet wafer, and a popover with honey that hit the spot. Finally, a bit more of the old shoe leather and we were at Canto 6 (on Green, one block from the T, going away from JP center) - for the grand finale of a tart (plum?), monkey bread - which turned out was a sweet light cinnamon-y cake, a wonderful almond macaroon, and a Gruyere croissant . How's all that for a last hurrah?

And here's the punchline - Guess what the total was for the whole shebang, from Jackson Square to Canto 6? Ten smackeroos each! I'm not kidding!

On to next time! (And look for the upcoming pics and further details from David....)

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  1. I regret missing this, considering I live steps from Pupusas Guanaca!

    1. Thanks for the write-up, fredid. My favorite discovery of the day were the arepitas de yuca we had at our first stop, Cafeteria Tropical. These were fried yuca patties flavored with anise (I think anise oil or extract maybe because there were no visible fennel seeds in their version). Delicious! I would definitely go back to this place and get those again. Also while we were there I saw several people order a whole fried fish with a tomato-based sauce of some kind. I'd order that next time.

      My other favorite was the ceviche tostada at Tacos el Charro. A very balanced ceviche, good texture and acid. Nice crunch of the tostada.

      It was a wonderful 5 hours and $10 spent. Thanks to Limster for making it happen.

      1. As always, it was very fun to eat with and learn from a pack of hounds. Loved the arepitas de yuca at Cafeteria Tropical and also their chicharron/fried pork rind; this was probably my favourite stop.

        Madrega's stand was a nice treat, I liked the beef version of their empanada the most and it was dirt cheap at $! a piece.

        I think the cake I liked at Estrella's was the tre leches cake, but it's diabetes in a box. Very sweet.

        I was impressed by the ceviche tostada at Tacos el Charro and I also enjoyed the tostadas at Pupusa Guanaca, a nice thin spread of (refried?) bean, a light sprinkle of cheese on a crispy and moderately thick tostada. The horchata wasn't as good as I remembered; Taqueria Mexico will probably be my go to place for that.

        Alex's Chimi's doesn't seem to have any sort of menu now, but I vaguely remembered that they made sandwiches (plus from the name Chimi), so we tried the pork one. The consensus seemed to be that we got more satsfaction out of it than the Cubano at Miami. That flan was very dense!

        I wished there was a hint of anise flavouring in the pizzelle at Ula; it's nice but I certainly won't go there just for that from the North End. The was a pleasant selection of good iced teas. Enjoyed the smoky Russian Caravan.

        1. It was indeed a fine crawl. Thanks to Limster for organizing and fellow hounds for making it a fun time. Now for the chow. Cafeteria Tropicale was very good and worth a second visit, but i came late to this. The soup with yucca, beef and potatoes was very nice. Personal favorites were the pastellinos from the little stand for taste and value ($1). Has anyone tried his restaurant cucina grande in chelsea? From El Charro, ceviche tostada was excellent and very refreshing and the pork in the tacos al pastor, tender and redolent with pineapple marinade. Miami restaurant in general was a disappointment. I thought the sandwich from Alex's Chimis was good but post crawl, I got a roast chicken for dinner for my wife that was terrific. Ula cafe was OK in a young and trendy sort of way but Canto 6 is a terrific bakery. The raspberry plum tart and monkey bread were my favorites there. Great eating and sharing for my first chowhound outing. As I said when I got home, I have found my people.

          1. Thanks for the report! Although I live in Jamaica Plain, I do not always get to all of these places regularly. I have never tried the Cafeteria Tropica. Will do so soon!

            1. I really wish I had been free on Saturday to join you. It sounds like you all had a blast, and the descriptions have me drooling (and eager to get over to JP!).

              1. Details, details: Cafe Tropical: The soup was a sancocho - a meat soup - and also had sofrito - I think that's a mixture of fresh ground spices, that flavored it - One Hound asked how to prepare it and maybe she'll post it! We passed on the mofongo because of time and I regret that - This place has lots to explore in a basic, home cooking kind of way - but don't forget to get a yummy arepita (that anise flavored yucca patty)!

                Madrega's -This guy is a favorite in the neighborhood and we could see why! He's got a stand right on the street with pastellitas - cheese or meat filled pastries - for $1 apiece! And he has lots of charm - His wife Maria makes everything fresh, and as Gourmaniac mentioned, they have a restaurant in Chelsea. JPers enjoy him so much, that when construction began in the park, they made sure the outer fence was bent to make a little spot for him! Now that's community chowing!

                Estella's -A bakery that's also a long time part of the neighborhood (We also sadly didn't stop at Yely's for chiicken, another neighborhood favorite): We got a few puddings here - a dulce leche, a cornstarch, and another - yummy for me on the first bites, but then I realized too sweet to continue! Ah, well....A "plain" pudding on the counter that one woman who likes this kind of simple dessert swooned over,,,and the very luffy guava, strawberry, pineapple cake that was very sweet and also delish...

                1. Great report, 'hounds! Lots of new tips here for chowing in my 'hood. I was in NYC this weekend and sorry that I missed it.

                  1. Wonderful report -- I'm jealous!! Happy to hear that Tacos El Charro is still open. I thought that they had closed as well. Do they still make great sangria?

                    1. It was a great crawl! What a terrific day - thanks, Limster, for arranging it.

                      I really liked the Cafeteria Tropical Restaurant - Maria gave me instructions on how to make the soup, and I will be posting that on the recipe section of Chowhound soon - when I do, I'll post a link on this thread. I also loved the fried yucca patties - Maria told me that they use anisette in the batter (flavor reminded me of some of my Sicilian mom's cooking.)

                      Wasn't crazy about any of the sweets from Estella's. Most were way too sweet for me, and the rest - well, the rest of our samplings were O.K. - nothing to write home (or to chows) about. The puddings were, I'd say, the best out of what we tried, but again, nothing I'd swoon over (like the woman in the shop did, apparently.)

                      I agree with Gourmiac that Ula Cafe was.. well, it was nice, but Canto 6, (first time there for me) did not disappoint me at all. The croissant was light, fluffy & flavorful, the tart was delish, and the Monkey bread was definitely the best - swirly chunks of buttery cinnamon bread that we broke off to eat (and, fortunately, no sign of any monkey in it.. ha!)

                      I have to say my favorite Chow experience of the day was at Mandrega's stand. His meat pies were really, really good - at only $1. If I get a chance, & next time I'm in town, I plan to stop by to get a bunch to bring home.

                      He, like Maria from the Cafeteria Tropical, was such a delight - all smiles (I felt so bad because when he saw our group arriving, he probably thought he was going to make his profit for the day right there, but then we shared a small sampling!) He told us how his wife makes the meat pies (are they pastellinos or empanadas- or are those both one and the same?), and he sells them there at his little cart, and in their restaurant in Chelsea - the Cucina Grande. Now I really want to try it, but I didn't write down a street address.

                      If anyone gets to Mandrega's stand before I get a chance to return, could you ask the exact address of his restaurant, and post it for us?

                      All in all, it was a really nice day!

                      Cafeteria Tropical
                      282 Centre St, Boston, MA 02130

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: threedogs

                        I did a search, and think I came up with the name & location for Mandrega's Chelsea restaurant. La Gran Cucina at 11 Everett Ave. in Chelsea. I THINK that's it.

                        If anyone gets there before I do, be sure to post a review.

                        1. re: threedogs

                          That's definitely the address for the restaurant in Chelsea. It's the one on the cart, and he confirmed that day.

                          1. re: desuka

                            Spelled that wrong - it's La Gran Cuisina (not Cucina) at 11 Everett Ave, in Chelsea, Still too tired from my finals...

                            I just found out it's only a 14 minute walk from the Chelsea commuter rail stop. (woo-hoo!)

                            La Gran Cuisina
                            11 Everett Ave, Chelsea, MA 02150

                        1. re: Bostonbob3

                          Sorry to all who couldn't join us - hey, I'd be willing to do another chow crawl soon. It was lots of fun.

                          So much food.... so little time...

                          : D

                          1. re: threedogs

                            Hi Threedogs, perhaps one in Lynn, Revere area. Seems like we could do well with Cambodian, Mexican, BBQ, Vietnamese etc.

                            1. re: gourmaniac

                              Yes - just in Lynn alone, there are so many places. I'd be up for a crawl - definitely Cambodian, Vietnamese, several Dominican.. and more. Since I don't have a car, I'll take a nice long walk someday, and see what I can find beyond the ones that are already familiar to me (and take a look at some of the recommendations of some of my neighbors, too).

                        2. Sounds great, but nothing compared to the transcendent Swedish meatballs I was eating at Wonderland while you were doing your crawl. :-O

                          That's funny about Tacos El Charro still being open. If I had a nickel for every person who said it was closing "in the next few weeks" over the past couple of years, I could have bought and sold the Red Sox three times over (well, er, maybe the Bruins).

                          1. my personal favorites:

                            -cafe tropical(e?) - oxtail and chicharrones ($31, including tax and tip, for the 2 plates of food and soup in the pictures)
                            -madego's - beef pastelito. didn't get to taste the chicken or cheese, but they looked good, too. ($1/pastelito)
                            -estrella bakery: cornstarch pudding and pineapple cake. limster, i'm not sure if the cake you mentioned is the dense one made with corn flour. the taste reminded me of a sweet tamale (the corn flour). ($6 total for 2 pieces of cake and 3 maybe 4 cups of pudding)
                            -tacos el charro: ceviche tostada. nice and refreshing after eating so much heavy meat. ($17 for the tostada, sopecho, and tacos al pastor)
                            -miami restaurant: i actually liked the cuban (but hey, what do i know). thanks, gourmaniac, for assembling a bite for me!
                            -alex's chimis: back to the heavy meat! pork sandwich. pork was tasty, and the bread was nice and crispy ($5 for sandwich, $1.50 for flan)

                            um, yes, i like pretty much everything.

                            we ended the crawl with ula cafe and canto 6. the popover and pizzelle from ula was just ok, i thought, but i grabbed a menu and some of their sandwiches look interesting (sweet potato sandwich). i took home a few items for myself and dchow to try:
                            -vanilla cupcake with raspberry jam. we thought this was just ok, nothing too special.
                            -sour cream and apple muffin: we both thought this could and probably should have been moister seeing as how it had both sour cream and apples in it. then again, we had it the sunday morning (bought it late saturday afternoon). also, it didn't have much flavor and maybe could have had more crumb topping.
                            -oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookie: this was my favorite from ula. still a little soft the next day. dchow thought it was "homey, chunky, great. very comforting cookie."

                            canto 6: the group got an almond macaroon, monkey bread, gruyere croissant, and a small plum raspberry tart. had a fingernail piece of the macaroon, and it tasted like the ones from clear flour. had a tiny bit of the croissant and no cheese, but the croissant was very good. favorite here was the plum tart. again, i got some things to share with dchow:
                            -hazelnut cocoa nib shortbread: dchow thoughts: "kinda soft, hoping for more crumbly, sandy, dry texture; not bad though." i thought it was alright, but probably wouldn't get it again.
                            -cheese danish: it had a flaky danish dough (not the same as the croissant dough), which apparently according to dchow is a "good sign of skills". dchow also described it as "fine. not spectacular."
                            -roasted tomato and goat cheese croissant: this was my and dchow's favorite. it was more like an open-faced savory tart and not like a typical "croissant" all bundled up. again, we had it sunday morning (purchased late saturday afternoon), so i heated it up in the toaster oven. nice flaky dough, even the next day.

                            great chowing with you, limster! got to eat some new food and make some new friends. thanks, all!


                            -"treasurer" and "historian" :)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: lschow

                              Thanks so much for posting the pictures ... they are really great. It was a perfect day for a JP crawl. Nice work, hounds.

                              1. re: lschow

                                The pictures are terrific - thanks so much for taking & posting them - and also a big thanks for being our 'treasurer.' Made it so easy for the rest of us to enjoy the day!

                              2. Best $10 I ever spent. I thought the Tropical was really solid all-round, especially the arepitas and the meat-stuffed potato croquette thingie. Estrella's stuff just isn't my thing, so sweet, but I did like the corn-flour pudding (very plain, looks like bread pudding). I tried a kibbe from the small savory selection which was ok enough and only $1, but wouldn't bring me back. That sope at Tacos el Charro was topped with pork in chile verde. I too really liked the ceviche tostado, and they gave us 3 different salsas that were nice. The pork sandwich from Alex's was great. Our selection from Miami was, sadly, dull. Loved the pastellitas from the cart. We also tried a slice of utterly forgettable pizza, see the photos. We stopped in a couple more Dominican places with steam tables, but by that time we'd done that and the food was looking tired, but we may well have missed something worthwhile. Canto 6 was *really* good, I enjoyed everything but especially the plum and raspberry tart.

                                1. I was supposed to do a write up on the crawl, but it looks like everything has been pretty well covered. I wanted to add that I thought that the fish at Cafe Tropical was good, and I noticed that several other diners had ordered it. Most everything else was very good, although I would pass on the green bananas and mashed potatoes (but I liked the potato ball.)

                                  I also liked the food at La Papusa Guanaca more than the general consensus. I also wasn't crazy about the horchata. Its hard to form an opinion from the little I had, but I would give this place another look.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: junior coyote

                                    I forgot about the fish at Cafe Tropical. I really liked it (had a tiny taste, but what I did have was good). Maria told me it was bass.

                                    Didn't like the horchata we tried later on from the place across the street from the Miami restaurant - was that Tacos el Charro? I liked the tostado (a mistake when Limster tried to order horchata - a good mistake!) with the bean paste spread over it - that looked easy to try to duplicate at home,too.

                                    1. re: threedogs

                                      I wish I could take credit for the tostada, but I didn't do the ordering there. :)

                                  2. Here's a linked list of places:

                                    Canto 6 Bakery & Cafe
                                    3346 Washington St, Boston, MA 02130

                                    Estrella Bakery
                                    333 Centre St, Boston, MA 02130

                                    Tacos El Charro
                                    349 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                    Alex's Chimis
                                    358 Centre St, Boston, MA 02130

                                    Miami Restaurant
                                    381 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                    La Pupusa & Guanaca
                                    378 Centre St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                    Ula Cafe
                                    284 Amory St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

                                    1. Just wanted to add that there's still a bunch of places we walked by but didn't have a chance to eat and some that we even poked our heads in. There's Yely's, Latino Restaurant, another Dominican looking place on the North side of the street between Miami Restaurant and Alex's Chmis (iirc), El Oriental de Cuba and Amory Restaurant. That's easily another crawl. :)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: limster

                                        LImster I think that was Cristal restaurant, another small Dominican place with steam table items. On another day, it might have made it but we were pretty saturated with the usual suspects.

                                      2. Where exactly was Mandrega's stand?
                                        I want to be able to hop out of the car and snag one of those.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                          Whoops - my bad. It's actually Madego (see lschow's pics above!) He's right smack in front of Mozart Park (remember the bent fence in my post? that's what they're renovating). I believe on the corner of Mozart. On Centre strret a block or so west of Jackson Sq T, on south side of street. You won't miss him!